At bars all across America we party like there’s no tomorrow on Cinco De Mayo. Free flowing Tequila, seemingly endless taco bars and bowls and bowls of chips with torrents of salsa. But, why do we do it? That question is hardly ever posed let alone considered as we ramp up a week in advance to hit our favorite bar or Taqueria. We just know instinctively that we have to drink green beer on St Patty’s Day and Tequila and Cerveza on Cinco De Mayo. Ok, so really, why?
#1 What does “Cinco de Mayo” Mean?
Okay. This may be difficult for many to believe but Cinco de Mayo simply means “fifth of May” in Spanish. Just like Americans have the fourth of July this Mexican holiday is simply the day and the month.
#2 Not Mexican Independence Day!
Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s independence day. Mexican independence is celebrated on September 16 and it’s considered the most important national holiday in Mexico. The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict, and the culmination of a political and social process which ended the rule of Spain in the territory of New Spain. The war had its antecedent in the French invasion of Spain in 1808 and extended from the Grito de Dolores on September 16 of 1810, to the entrance of the Army of the Three Guarantees to Mexico City on September 27 of 1821.
#3 It’s to celebrate a victory over Frickin Napoleon
Most Americans had no idea that Mexicans fought the French and they kicked their butts! Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla.
#4 They couldn’t pay their bills
In 1861 the liberal Mexican Benito Juárez (1806-1872) became president of a country in financial ruin, and he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III (1808-1873), decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory.
#5 The victory over the French wasn’t the final outcome.
The Mexican victory, however, was short-lived. A year later, with thirty thousand troops, the French were able to defeat the Mexican army, capture Mexico City, and install Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico. The French victory was short-lived, lasting only three years, from 1864 to 1867. By 1865, “with the American Civil War now over, the U.S. began to provide more political and military assistance to Mexico to expel the French”.
#6 Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo way harder than Mexicans
Today Cinco de Mayo has become more of an American holiday than a Mexican one. They same way that America appropriated St. Patty’s Day we’ve also stolen Cinco De Mayo. Why? Mostly commercial reason. Restaurants, party supply stores and malls all use any and every holiday that can steal and invent to drive consumers to spend money. And, by the way, we consumers love a good party–whatever the reason!
#7 Cinco de Mayo goes beyond the bar
On June 7, 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a Concurrent Resolution calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
#8 In Mexico Cinco de Mayo in mainly celebrated in state of Puebla
Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s unlikely triumph occurred, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration. Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.
#9 Cinco de Mayo was popularized by Chicano Activists
Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s, in part because they identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla. Today, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
#10 Cinco de Mayo has spread throughout the U.S.
In a 1998 study in the Journal of American Culture it was reported that there were more than 120 official U.S. celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, and they could be found in 21 different states. An update in 2006 found that the number of official Cinco de Mayo events was 150 or more
#11 Many U.S. schools use Cinco de Mayo as a learning tool
To celebrate, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate students about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include baile folklórico and mariachi demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles, near Olvera Street
#12 Cinco de Mayo has gone worldwide!
With the rise of Mexican food on the global food scene, Cinco de Mayo events have started popping up outside Mexico and the United States. As in the United States, celebrations elsewhere also emphasize Mexican cuisine, culture and music. For example, Windsor, Ontario, holds an American-style “Cinco de Mayo Street Festival”, some Canadian pubs play Mexican music and serve Mexican food and drink. The city of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, holds an annual Mexican Festival to honor the day, and celebrations are held in London and New Zealand. American-style celebrations of the day can also be found in Paris. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Tokyo, Japan in Yoyogi Park Event Space as a celebration of all the Americas and not just Mexican culture.
So, no matter how or why you celebrate Cinco de Mayo (and I know you do) raise a toast to the brave men and women who battle the French and won. Toast responsibly and grab an Uber! Stay Safe!